Laura (Anne Heche) and Amelia (Catherine Keener) are best friends and New Yorkers. Laura is engaged to Frank (Todd Field). This freaks Amelia out, since not only is Laura less available to Amelia than she once was, but Amelia is feeling so boyfriend deficient that at one point she lowers her standards precipitously enough to date Bill (Kevin Corrigan), a skanky video-store clerk they call Ugly Guy behind his back. In Walking and Talking, the debut feature of young filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, 30-year-old New York girls talk about the kinds of things girls have always talked about in New York girl movies — friendship, sex, borrowing clothes, psychotherapy — and boys try to keep up.
Not much happens in this slight variation: The cat gets sick. Andrew (Liev Schreiber), Amelia’s loyal, moocher buddy as only an ex-boyfriend can be, loses himself in a hot phone-sex relationship. Frank puts off having a mole removed from his chest, which bugs Laura to no end. Amelia never launders her friend’s clothes after she borrows them, which also bugs Laura to no end. Oh, the twagedies! But Walking and Talking is saved from utter banality by a script dotted with occasional buoyant moments of tenderness and wit, as well as by the light touch of its attractive cast. Warm, funny Keener, who added to the pleasures of Living in Oblivion, keeps Amelia on the acceptable side of quirky. Heche, undoubtedly grateful to be sprung from The Juror, makes Laura only mildly impossibly neurotic. The men are particularly appealing, especially the game, goateed Field (Beltzer in Twister) as Frank, a guy mature and decent enough not to be unnerved by Laura’s many little premarital hysterias. At one point, having endured a long car ride with the women, accompanied by the keening of Joan Osborne singing ”Lumina,” Frank sums up both the song and this movie: ”Vagina music.” I’ve heard worse tunes. B-